7 November 2017

Kenya: Leaders Told to Support Biotech Crops Programmes

A government forum to deliberate on faster adoption of genetically modified technologies has called on political leaders to drive the agenda to enhance food production.

The forum heard that political goodwill was necessary if Kenyans was to take up GM farming technologies.

"Political leaders must show goodwill and lead the course towards adoption and commercialisation of GM technologies for the benefit of starving Kenyans," a participant said.

ISAAA senior programme officer Faith Nguthi, said information on benefits of scientifically proven technologies should be regularly communicated through different forums to enable Kenyans defend adoption of high yielding scientifically developed varieties.

The forum convened in Embu sought to prepare government officials from the Agriculture and Industry ministries ahead of the release of BT Cotton seeds to farmers for commercial propagation.

BT Cotton, which has undergone thorough tests over the past decade, is resistant to bollworms, enabling the crop to post higher yields than conventional cotton varieties.

Bt Cotton principal researcher Charles Waturu said the Bollgard I® and Bollgard II® cotton varieties were successfully tested, where they effectively controlled the populations of African bollworm and had no significant effect on non-target pest species.

"Growing BT cotton will significantly reduce the quantity of insecticides used by Kenyan farmers, from 12 to about three sprays per season, thus reducing the cost of production and increasing income from cotton farming," he said.

Kenya currently produces approximately 25,000 bales of cotton, being 10.4 per cent of the country's potential once BT cotton is commercialised.

Other crops under development include cow peas, yams, sweet potatoes and maize. They have all shown resilience during farm trials.

The forum heard that issuance of caveats during trials serves to stifle innovation, adding that such drastic measures should be taken only if the resultant crops prove harmful.


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